Arrest of 21 shows police bias
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned by the
arrest of 21 participants at a peaceful vigil on the night of Jan 10 at
the capital city Kuala Lumpur. Held to protest the state terrorism in
Gaza and Sri Lanka, the 300-strong assembly at Merdeka Square saw
several opposition parliamentarians being arrested for allegedly
ignoring police orders to disperse.
However, according to one of those arrested, S. Arutchelvam, of the
Socialist Party of Malaysia, police started arresting people almost
immediately after the warning to disperse was being given and even as
opposition parliamentarians Dr Nasir Hashim and Charles Santiago were
still negotiating for time.
The assembly was organised by the Anti-War Coalition, which is composed
of Federal Opposition political parties such as People's Justice Party
(PKR) and PSM, and civil society groups. Those arrested were freed on
police bail the same night.
Besides showing yet again the police's flagrant disregard for the
people's constitutionally protected right to demonstrate peacefully,
the arrest raises not for the first time questions about police
impartiality given that a series of similar gatherings held the day
before were allowed to proceed without any disruption by state
PSM was among those who joined the demonstration outside the US
Embassy, which drew thousands of people. Two other smaller assemblies
at Kampung Baru and the National Mosque included Federal Government
legislator Mukhriz Mahathir and his father, former Prime Minister Dr
CIJ regrets that the police have again demonstrated disregard of the
constitutional right to freedom of assembly and double standards in
performing its duties. The public's expectation is for the police to
protect their right to assemble peacefully, irrespective of political
affiliations, and not restrict their right using laws that were not
intended to subjugate the Federal Constitution.
The government should relax the requirements for holding public
assemblies that are peaceful and the police should cease arresting
those who participate in them.
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